Perhaps the biggest challenge of being an entrepreneur, especially a service providing solotrepreneur, is the conflict that inevitably arises between keeping your marketing efforts going and serving the business that such efforts yield. Generally, in the beginning, everything is focused toward generating income-producing business. But once a sufficient amount comes in, the marketing efforts stop in order to take care of the clients. But once these jobs are completed marketing has to be ramped up again, often coinciding with a drop in income.
For the first few years, I was in business I was caught in this seeming tug of war between marketing and serving clients. It was extremely frustrating especially since I felt I was always losing momentum while suffering through large swings in cash flow.
I finally learned several lessons that helped me conquer this predicament:
- Marketing must never stop. Whether you are working alone or have a staff to service clients, your number one priority is to keep the marketing effort, and thus the flow of business going.
- The longer the lag time between acquiring a new client and getting paid, the more important consistent marketing is. Real estate agents have to constantly keep their pipeline filled because often there are several months between getting a client and closing a transaction. Also, many transactions are time consuming. It is tempting to be fooled into thinking that as long as you are busy working on deals you need not worry about marketing, But once all the escrows close, if you are starting essentially from scratch the commissions from the prior deals may not carry you through to the next batch of closings.
- Only a mature business can consider relying solely on referrals. Once you develop a reputation for quality work you will receive a lot of referrals. But changes in your industry may necessitate your still marketing for new business since mergers and clients going out of business often mean that referral sources wane or have to be courted again.
- Make your marketing efforts scalable. Whatever techniques you are using, be it networking groups, cold-calling, or social media, make sure that you can easily increase or reduce your time commitment so that you are consistently doing the same things while adjusting the volume. For example, early in your business, you might devote two or three hours a day to cold-calling. But as more of your time must be devoted to serving clients, rather than stopping just scale back your calling plan.
- Delegate your least productive servicing and marketing efforts. Determine which activities need to be sustained but generate the lowest return on investment, then, rather than stopping them, turn them over to an assistant. Interaction with clients, existing and potential, is probably the most fruitful use of your time. Once you thoroughly understand the less profitable tasks you can train someone to handle them.
Rather than being disheartened by the constant roller coaster of no business/ramp up marketing effort and too much business/stop all marketing, devise a plan that from the start has you consistently pursuing new business while providing excellent service to clients.
Question – What ideas do you have that would allow you to constantly pursue new business while giving the kind of service that will engender client loyalty?
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